Are You Holding Yourself Back?

by Lynne Olsen

Recently, while getting acquainted with a new personal training client, they told me that they have a history of self-sabotage. The comment got me thinking; what does “self-sabotage” mean, how common is it, and why do we do it?

The dictionary definition of sabotage is an act or process of “undermining a cause, plan, or effort.” If we apply this concept to our treatment of ourselves, self-sabotage occurs when our conduct conflicts with our goals, aspirations, or our own wellbeing. It’s like one part of us wants one thing while another part, for various reasons, wants something entirely different. It is not limited to the physical realm of exercise and eating but can include any of the choices that we make on a daily basis, including the people with whom we spend time, how we spend our money, and the choices we make about what we eat.

Do you do anything that impedes your own wellbeing? Start by choosing a behavior that serves to improve your wellbeing. It can be something that you already do or something that you would like to do. Then, take a moment to consider whether or not you do anything that hampers or impedes the first behavior. That’s the first step. The second step is to ponder the “why.”

As an example, Joe works with his personal trainer 3 days a week for 45 minutes each time. He and his trainer talk about his nutrition and his activity outside of their sessions. He knows what he should do, yet, Joe eats fast food every night, drinks several sodas a day, and remains sedentary at home and at work. In this example, 45 minutes of physical activity 3 day per week is the positive behavior. Joe hampers the benefits of the first behavior by eating poorly and remaining sedentary for the remaining 166.65 hours of the week. Why?

Is fear a common cause of self-sabotage? At one point, I held a job that negatively affected nearly every aspect of my life. For over a year, I considered leaving, but fear of the unknown kept me from acting. The action of staying in my job (or rather, lack of action) resulted in stress and unhappiness that translated into my life outside of work. Other forms of self-sabotage include inaction, like failure to try another occupation, holding negative beliefs about yourself, or negativity in general, and maintaining harmful relationships.
Do you do anything that sabotages your own wellbeing? If so, why? If you were to imagine yourself accomplishing your goals, desires, or aspirations, what would it mean for you? Would things be different? And if things were truly different, how would it make you feel?

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